Should you plant grass in winter

This is the best way to get your ornamental grasses through the winter

Tie up, wrap with fleece or cover with mulch: There are many tips circulating on how to overwinter ornamental grasses. But it's not that simple - because what protects one ornamental grass in winter can even harm the other.

In general, the following applies: The majority of all perennial ornamental grasses that are offered for sale in our nurseries and garden centers are hardy in our latitudes. Nonetheless, there are some "sensitive people" among them who look forward to additional protection in the winter months - although for many it is not even the low temperatures that are the problem, but the winter wetness or the winter sun. The type of overwintering depends on the type of grass, the location and whether it is summer or winter green.

Hibernating ornamental grasses: the most important points in brief
  • Ornamental grasses that prefer dry soils should not be packed with fleece or leaves. In the case of pampas grass (Cortaderia selloana) and pile reed (Arundo donax), however, tying and packing is necessary.
  • Most deciduous ornamental grasses do not need winter protection if they are only cut back in spring shortly before budding.

  • Winter and evergreen grasses should be covered with a layer of leaves or brushwood to protect them from the winter sun.

  • Ornamental grasses in pots need a place protected from the winter sun for the winter. Wrap the planters with fleece or a coconut mat and cover the soil with leaves.

Hibernate ornamental grasses: that's how it works

As already mentioned, not all ornamental grasses need winter protection, even if you see wrapped or tied grasses in many gardens. Rather the opposite is the case. The excessive winter protection can even harm some species. Ornamental grasses, which prefer dry soils, suffer if you wrap their clumps with fleece or leaves, as winter moisture can accumulate underneath. The result: the plants begin to rot. Blue fescue (Festuca glauca), giant feather grass (Stipa gigantea) and blue ray oats (Helictotrichon sempervirens) are very sensitive to such wrapping. However, this measure is highly recommended for wintergreen pampas grass (Cortaderia selloana) and pile reeds (Arundo donax). In autumn, your leaf heads are tied together, surrounded with dry leaves and then wrapped with fleece. Foil is not suitable for this, as liquid can collect under it and hardly any air exchange takes place.

In order for pampas grass to survive the winter unscathed, it needs the right winter protection. In this video we show you how to do it

Credit: MSG / CreativeUnit / Camera: Fabian Heckle / Editor: Ralph Schank

The majority of all deciduous ornamental grasses such as Chinese reed (Miscanthus), pennon cleaner grass (Pennisetum alopecuroides) or switchgrass (Panicum virgatum) do not require winter protection - the plants themselves take care of that Shoots are cut back. The dried up leaves and stalks protect the heart of the plant and ensure that no winter moisture can penetrate. In addition, the leaf clusters appear extremely decorative under hoarfrost and snow.

Protect wintergreen ornamental grasses from the sun

In contrast to the deciduous ornamental grasses, in which all above-ground parts of the plant die off in autumn, winter and evergreen grass species such as some sedges (Carex) or grove (Luzula) still present their pretty foliage in the winter months. And that is exactly what needs to be protected with these ornamental grasses. Most of the evergreen species love shade and are sensitive to the sun. When the leaves fall from the trees in autumn, they are at the mercy of them and without the appropriate protective measures, "sunburn" can quickly occur. Grove cornices are best protected with a thick layer of leaves, while evergreen sedges are more likely to be covered with brushwood. If you live in a snowy region, the layer of snow is sufficient to protect you from the winter sun.

Winter tips for ornamental grasses in pots

Ornamental grasses planted in pots have slightly different winter protection requirements than specimens growing in beds. Because the small amount of soil in the pot freezes through much faster at low temperatures than the soil in the bed. Some species like the feather hair grass (Stipa tenuissima) or the oriental lamp cleaner grass (Pennisetum orientale) do not tolerate this at all. Ornamental grasses that are absolutely hardy when planted in the bed, such as Chinese reeds or switchgrass, also need additional protection in the pot. That is why you should wrap the planters of all ornamental grasses in the pot with fleece or a coconut mat. Some foliage on the ground also protects the plants from above. If the ornamental grasses overwinter outdoors, you should move larger pots close together after packing them up. The best place for wintering is in front of a north wall, as the ornamental grasses are protected from the winter sun there. You can also put smaller pots together in a box and fill the gaps with straw or leaves. Line the box with some bubble wrap beforehand and the plants are optimally protected. However, wrapping in fleece is not suitable for moisture-sensitive species, as their roots could rot.

With all ornamental grasses, it is also important that the pot does not stand directly on the cold terrace floor. Small feet made of clay or a styrofoam sheet can help here. At the same time, clay feet ensure that the rainwater can run off easily and that there is no waterlogging that could freeze at low temperatures.

Practical video: cutting pampas grass

In contrast to many other grasses, pampas grass is not cut, but cleaned. We'll show you how to do it in this video.
Credits: Video and editing: CreativeUnit / Fabian Heckle